Driving in a city like Mexico City is not an easy task, is more like a survival track set for the most adventurous and skilled drivers avoiding traffic, pedestrians, protestors, thieves, street vendors, bikers, and of course public transportation that stop wherever they want whenever they want -even in the third lane just because- an experience “that can frazzle even the calmest nerves” as Joshua Partlow nicely wrote on today’s The Washington Post‘s edition.
“We can’t compete against this illegal company,” said Jesus Juarez Cruz, 34, a driver and representative of a taxi stand in the wealthy Bosques de las Lomas neighborhood. “For so long, we’ve been paying the government our taxes, and it’s not fair that overnight they give everything to a company that breaks the rules.”
Uber started operating in Mexico City two years ago and has quickly grown to more than 100,000 users and several thousand drivers, with fares often cheaper than those of the taxi fleet. Company officials said they pay all taxes and follow applicable laws. But the taxi drivers see Uber as a foreign import that can dominate because it largely avoids the city’s cumbersome bureaucracy…
Some drivers dislike the whiff of elitism — how Uber tends to cater to wealthier residents with credit cards — and that it’s a foreign company swooping into Mexico. But the bottom line for most is the threat to their livelihood. Daniel Garcia, a 15-year taxi veteran, said his average earnings of $500 a month have been cut in half since Uber surged into the city.
“Violence. Much violence,” said Gabriel Helguera, an Uber driver. “They smash cars. They beat drivers up and send them to the hospital. This shouldn’t be happening.”
The intimidation has not slowed the company, which now operates in four Mexican cities and has plans to expand. In response to the taxi strike, which lasted about six hours, Uber offered its users two free trips. Downloads for the application that Monday, a company official said, rose by 800 percent.
“Because Mexico doesn’t stop, today Uber is free,” the company said.
Some of my friends say that I was trained by a Mexico City cabby because of my way of driving -fast and furious- true, but I have to say that MexCity cabs provide an invaluable service: they get you right on time, safe? Well, not that much if you have a heart condition and don’t like roller coasters. When I lived in Mexico City there were times I preferred to park my Mama-mobile and grab a cab if I needed to be on time, an exhilarating adventure accompanied with the latest news on the city and a unique perspective on public policies, foreign affairs and of course the latests rates on criminality in the surrounding area.
My experience with Uber? Well, I have to describe my husband’s in this case since I don’t use Uber. He was picked up in the Polanco hotel area by a 2014 Honda Civic, the car according to my husband was very neat as clean from the outside as it was on the inside, the driver “a true gentleman” trying to make chit chat conversation without saying too much; though the experience started nice my husband arrived 20 minutes late to his meeting because the driver couldn’t find the address, since the GPS was outdated the new neighborhoods beyond Santa Fe were not listed, so my husband had to google map the address on his phone and direct the driver though a different route, and of course they had to wait for a few protestors to move out from some the streets. The next day he asked for Uber again, different driver, same result: late. On his last day in Mexico City my husband had to go to a meeting riding with a co-worker and then to the airport, he had plenty of time but of course he didn’t expect the co-worker to leave before him, so my husband trusted his Uber App, requested a ride back to the hotel but guess what? This time the driver didn’t show up despite the message saying that he/she was on its way.
After 15 minutes of panicking he called me and the only thing I said was: “get a cab from the stand and give him an extra tip for the rush, you’ll get there on time, trust me”.
Of course he listened to my advice 😉 called the hotel and requested the taxi from the official stand (a.k.a taxis de sitio), when the cab arrived he asked him how much to go to the airport in an effort to calculate the extra tip, the driver smiled and asked: “you need to be there at what time Sir?, I know a shortcut, not very nice but is the fastest, I guarantee it no extra charge”
40 minutes later my husband was standing in front of the Airport Terminal 1 main door with his guts up to his throat, about to spill the cookies, ready to check-in and about to come home.
Change is imminent and necessary to be better, taxi cabbies and Uber drivers have to be regulated by the same set of rules, no more gray areas and loop holes favoring one or the other. In a country like Mexico where the rule of law has major flaws it is essential for the safety of the users and country’s stability to right this wrong.
Though I wondered if an Uber driver would have made it on time? Just a question.
Stay tuned 🙂